Deadly Indonesian police raid sparks debate

Despite successes in curbing terrorism, Densus 88 is facing criticism for not capturing suspects alive.

By Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

January 17, 2014
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Densus 88, the Indonesian police's anti-terror wing, has been criticised for killing rather than apprehending six suspected militants during a New Year's Eve standoff and shootout in South Tangerang.

  • A member of Densus 88 takes aim at a house in Bandung where suspects traded fire with police on May 8th, 2013. The counterterrorism unit faces criticism for alleged excessive use of force in its operations. [Usep Usman Nasrullah/AFP]

    A member of Densus 88 takes aim at a house in Bandung where suspects traded fire with police on May 8th, 2013. The counterterrorism unit faces criticism for alleged excessive use of force in its operations. [Usep Usman Nasrullah/AFP]

Former National Police Chief Dai Bachtiar is among the critics.

"Shooting citizens dead, who are suspected terrorists without the court processes, will only make terrorists seek revenge. This also means the police will become targets of terrorist retaliation," he told Republika on January 10th.

Dai added police should take suspects alive whenever possible, for interrogation.

Wawan Purwanto, a terrorism expert at the University of Indonesia (UI), agreed.

"I always call on the police to capture them alive so they can extract more information from the suspects," Wawan told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Yet, he acknowledged the situation in South Tangerang was far from ideal. The Densus 88 unit involved in the nine-hour house standoff had taken necessary measures to avoid killing the suspects, Wawan said.

"That is why the raid took so long, because the police had expected the men to surrender," he said.

In Wawan's opinion, there was another significant factor in the outcome: the terror suspects had been trained to fight until the end rather than surrender.

Surrender calls ignored

Indonesian officials defended the operational conduct of Densus 88.

The slain suspects were believed to be part of a militant group responsible for the August 2013 bombing of the Ekayana Buddhist temple in West Jakarta, and for a series of fatal police shootings last year.

In the New Year's Eve raid, police recovered 50 jihad-themed books, six handguns, six home-made pipe bombs, five machetes, bomb-making materials and Rp. 235 million ($19,900) in cash, officials said.

Officers also found a handwritten note listing the US Embassy, a police precinct, and some Buddhist temples as targets for planned terrorist attacks, police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told Khabar. The six men, he said, were "terrorists armed with guns and bombs."

The National Police Commission (Kompolnas) also defended the raid, saying the Densus 88 unit followed proper procedures.

"We came to the conclusion that the police had taken all the necessary steps to avoid the shootout, including issuing a public address calling for the men to surrender," Kompolnas Commissioner Edi Saputra Hasibuan told Khabar.

Edi said commissioners visited the site of the standoff, gathering information from locals on how Densus 88 handled the situation. They also visited the police hospital in Kramat Jati, East Jakarta where the terror suspects' bodies were taken for autopsies, he added.

Edi called on police to allow representatives of religious organisations, human rights groups as well as Kompolnas commissioners to observe future anti-terrorist operations.

"It would also be a form of public accountability that the police conduct raids according to [established] procedures and to prevent allegations emerging later that their actions compromised their targets' rights," Edi said.

Reader Comments
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    • hidayat
      February 3, 2014 @ 11:02:46AM
    • Densus 88 are idiots, leave the terrorists in Indonesia so they are ready for war with the Christians.
    • bolling
      February 3, 2014 @ 11:02:51AM
    • Don't focus on just terrorists, if possible, all crimes that have been committed and those who have no qualms about hurting/killing their victims must also be exterminated.
    • Masykur
      February 1, 2014 @ 04:02:46AM
    • The Police/Densus 88 are not wrong to shoot and kill these terrorists because members of terrorist organizations will not give up, Their principle is that it is better to die than to give up. When they give up they go to prison, but when they die the go to heaven, such is their misguided faith.
    • arif rahman
      January 29, 2014 @ 09:01:19PM
    • Densus 88. We suspect that they are a part of the Christianization movement in Indonesia. The proof is that they always kill, not capture and prove.
    • Masayu mala
      January 29, 2014 @ 08:01:12PM
    • An accurate and conducive piece of news.
    • ahmad nashiruddin
      January 27, 2014 @ 11:01:58PM
    • This is terrorists calling out other terrorists because Densus 88 are the masterminds. Mr. Bahtiar, please give your input to your former institution so they will continue to have the people's trust.
    • achmad sumarjo
      January 26, 2014 @ 11:01:29PM
    • I approve of the actions of the police in eradicating terrorists so that our beloved Indonesia is safe and peaceful. To all of you who always give comments faulting the police I say that you probably do not have the kind of courage they (the police) have. Let us support our security forces, they have worked hard to bring peace to our beloved republic.
    • hilda
      January 26, 2014 @ 10:01:46PM
    • Mate, are salaries so meager that we would take away what is not ours?
    • Ibnu thai Meong
      January 26, 2014 @ 05:01:45AM
    • Great, Densus 88, crush these Wahafi Salafist terrorist scum. They have no humanitarian sense when killing people with bombs. Eradicate them, who is going to bring those bomb victims back to life? Many suffer because of these Wahabi Salafist terrorist scum working under the guise of Sunni. They are not Sunni but terrorists funded by Saudi Arabia, America and the Israeli Zionists to the amount of 900 million dollars to destroy Indonesia because it would not bow to America fully. Remember, they are Wahabi Salafist terrorists who regard those who are different as being infidels.
    • muharadani
      January 25, 2014 @ 10:01:33AM
    • You will be held responsible for all of this, Densus 88. How many lives were lost without good reason? Allah said that all who knowingly kill believers will find retribution in hell where he shall remain for eternity. Waliyadzubilah.
    • BLO
      January 24, 2014 @ 01:01:01PM
    • The result of mafia manipulation.
    • bagong
      January 24, 2014 @ 06:01:45AM
    • Get rid of all these terrorists, Dai Bahtiar is just looking for popularity. Create terrorists when we go to war with Australia. Release them there, that's Jihad. Do not go to war with your own nation.
    • agus
      January 24, 2014 @ 05:01:12AM
    • Bravo to Densus, terrorists need to be crushed. Those who continue to fault Densus have the mentality of terrorists and are those who want to see the Republic of Indonesia fall into chaos.
    • hendri firmanto
      January 23, 2014 @ 05:01:03PM
    • I agree with Saputra, they are the truly vicious terrorists, killing unarmed innocents. So many innocent lives killed by infidels. America is their father, yet they defend them when they are the despots.
    • asamson
      January 23, 2014 @ 12:01:54PM
    • Why are there people being labelled as terrorists? Because they interfere with their interests, the interests of people with money, those who would tear apart the culture and history of Islam and its presence in this country, a country said to have been founded by the largest Islamic kingdoms in the world. Muslims are shackled and robbed of their Islamic spirit little by little, neutralized in the name of democracy, tolerance (of which the primary beneficiary are minorities with their colonial and slanderous mentalities). Many rulers, whether of low rank or high, secularists and the religious scholars within government offices and parties and those connected with them, have vacuous minds and decayed hearts, maggot-ridden and foul. Therefore, we must look for leaders who are virtuous, trustworthy, spreads the divine message, and intelligent. In this country, what is in line with history and culture are the bloodlines of the sultanates and the nine clerics whose unity with God is the best because their hearts were chosen by Allah SWT, not just the result of study alone. Their superior lineage has been evident throughout history.
    • gunawan.m
      January 22, 2014 @ 08:01:26AM
    • Terrorists in Indonesia exist under the auspices of the government and the proof is that no live witnesses have ever been caught. I pity those who serve as nothing but diversions from other issues.
    • saputra
      January 20, 2014 @ 09:01:26AM
    • Special Detachment 88 (Densus 88) is still in the wrong. This is just a trumped up excuse for when terrorists refuse to surrender, what is the proof? Densus is just looking for excuses, those five people were unarmed, the shots came from one side, you number in the hundreds; why not wait every day and night for one week? Did you act prematurely because you were afraid people would find out what is behind it all? Money projects, asking for American and Australian funds. Mr. Bakhtiar, I agree with you.
      January 17, 2014 @ 09:01:40PM
    • Solid article.
    • choirulmustawa
      January 17, 2014 @ 03:01:48PM
    • Can I join in?
    • azwar
      January 28, 2014 @ 08:01:46PM
    • I agree with former Indonesian Police Chief Dai Bachtiar's idea.

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